Specialist translators could soon be heading for job centres across the world if Fuji Xerox makes good on the technology it has developed for its latest prototype photocopy machine.

The device, currently on show [Subscription link] only in Japan, can scan a printed sheet of Japanese text from a newspaper or magazine and churn out a translation of it in Chinese, English or Korean while retaining the original layout. Flip a switch and the linguistic parsing works in the opposite direction too.

Central translation brain

Fuji Xerox's secret lies in networking the unnamed copier to a dedicated translation server and combining this with algorithms that can distinguish between text, drawings and lines for maintaining page layouts.

While the concept of a one-touch translation machine is a wonderful idea for anyone who regularly works in multiple languages, let's hope the technology moves on from the current generation of machine-translation (MT) software that can be seen mangling sentences on sites.